They marched in, one by one, through the crack in the floorboard and up the cupboard door. Crossing the counter, they advanced to the toaster and surveyed the harvest.
“I’ll take that piece,” one said.
“Need some help?” asked another.
Their comrades, heading in the opposite direction, labored under their breadcrumb burdens. Some carried their own loads; others worked in teams.
What would these ants say if they ever stopped their work long enough to watch the children in that kitchen?
“Why isn’t that boy cleaning up this mess?”
“Why is that lady putting all the food away by herself? Why doesn’t someone help her?”
“It’s going to take that girl a long time to wash those dishes if she keeps leaving before she’s done.”
“There’s a boy who’s working hard. He’s obeying God, just like we are.”
“Why doesn’t everyone just do his work? Don’t they know they will please God by cheerfully cleaning up this kitchen and helping each other?”
“Hurry! The dog’s cleaning up our crumbs under the table!”
What would the ants see in your household? Would they offer some lessons to teach your children?
Go to the Ant
I remember a sunny afternoon in our front yard as our six children and I huddled over the sidewalk, watching a busy colony of ants. The energy and strength of those tiny creatures impressed us. Their commitment to their task was amazing. None wandered around with nothing to do. No ant appeared to be directing and motivating the rest of the team. Every little ant seemed to know what God had made him to do, and he was simply doing his best to do it. Each, busy with his seemingly insignificant task, was a lesson for us.
Go to the Word
God gave the ants their instructions when He created them, and they have been busy obeying Him ever since.God has given us His instructions, too.
Ants are always busy.God told them it is right for an ant to be busy, so they keep busy. James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Are we training our children to repent of sin when they fail to do what is right—when they are negligent in a job, when they ignore a person in need instead of helping, when they rush through a math assignment instead of being thorough?
Ants work with no one managing them. God told them to work, so they work with no further direction. They are committed to serving their Creator and obeying His commands. Ephesians 6:6 says we should serve “not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ.” Do our children obey because we are watching and directing, and maybe even nagging, or are we training them to obey because they love and serve a living God?
Ants don’t stand around talking or complaining. God told them to work, so they keep working. Proverbs14:23 states, “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” Do our children really know how to work? Do they focus on their task and take delight in their labor, or do they tend to dawdle, complain, or talk too much? Do they let others do the work while they become distracted, or are they working with all their might?
Ants work to stay alive. God told them to work for what they eat, so they work. Proverbs21:17 says, “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man.” Do our children understand the relationship between labor and provision? Are they allowed to experience the consequences when they turn off the alarm and go back to sleep? Do they pay a price when schoolwork is unfinished?
Ants work for the future. God told them to store up food for winter, so they must work to gather it while they can. Galatians 6:9 encourages us not to “grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Do our children take seriously schedules and deadlines? Are they willing to work for a long-range goal? Do we allow them to feel the natural results that come with negligence and sloth? Do they recognize the blessings that come from perseverance and from doing the right thing at the right time?
Do we parents believe that blessing will come from our own perseverance? Are we faithfully training our children to be as faithful as the ants? Let us pray for God’s blessing on our labors, and I will pray for the ability still to crouch down over the sidewalk when my grandchildren are old enough to learn from the ants. Maybe we’ll try one of those plastic ant farms.
Pam Forster and her family own and operate Doorposts, a company dedicated to helping families live out the truths of Scripture in their homes. She is the creator of the “Go-to-the-Ant Chart,” a chart for parents who want to train their children in diligence. She also authored For Instruction in Righteousness, the “If-Then Chart,” the “Brother-Offended Chart”, and many other parenting tools. View sample pages and other Doorposts’ products at www.Doorposts.com.
—Originally published in Homeschooling Today magazine, “Consider the Ant,” July/August 2009